This month, the Mississippi State Department of Health announced a change to HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. In response to state budget cuts, HIV and STI testing will no longer be offered for free. Beginning July 1, many people seeking testing will be required to pay a $25 fee to cover the cost of testing and associated lab work. Some people may be able to pay on a sliding fee scale, and testing will continue to be free for people under age 18.
“This is a big deal,” said Dázon Dixon Diallo, DHL, MPH, CEO of the Atlanta-based HIV nonprofit SisterLove. “A fee of $25 can be formidable for some [people].”
States in the South—particularly Mississippi—are disproportionately impacted by HIV, with the South accounting for the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in any region (18.5 per 100,000 people, compared to 11.2 in the West, 8.2 in the Midwest and 14.2 in the Northeast). Mississippi has the sixth highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. (17.0 per 100,000 people). The capital, Jackson, has the fourth-highest rate of new HIV diagnoses of U.S. cities, with an astounding diagnoses rate of 31.3 per 100,000 people. The majority of new HIV diagnoses (67%) are among men who have sex.